Staying Positive When Your Product Causes Pain

Sign with words: We Like You Too :).

I make and think about WordPress themes all day with the WordPress.com Theme Team. They control the appearance of a WordPress website, and it’s a heck of a fun job. Most of the time.

What I often hear from customers who use our products: “I just want to get it to look how I see it in my head.” Or something similar. People have a vision, and unfortunately, some levels of customization in WordPress can be hard without advanced knowledge or coding expertise. So ultimately, I can come away from many of these conversations and support tickets feeling like I’ve failed my customers. That’s true to some degree, of course. But how do you keep moving forward, releasing something better for people, if all you see is the negative?

You can’t. I want to share some tips on how to stay positive when your product can cause customers pain.

Search for wins too: My team spends a lot of time trying to detect challenges customers face and how to fix them. Naturally, this leads to a lot of, “Well, that’s terrible. No wonder the customer quit or became confused.” When you’re finding this stuff, look for the positive too. We have a “Random site” button where I can view a random site with a particular WordPress theme on WordPress.com. Sometimes, I look around until I find a nice-looking site, and explore it a bit.

Share the positive: Finding wins won’t help unless you share them. The support staff on our team drops cheerful notes about customers liking themes or features regularly. It’s a small thing, but it makes you feel good. Real good. Any product team needs those feelings in bunches.

Build a culture around finding and sharing the good: If you do this regularly, you start to feel like you’re winning regularly too. And it balances out that feeling that you’re failing your customers when you create something they struggle with. My team could always be better at this, but a few ways to start:

  • Share one win before every weekly meeting.
  • Start and/or keep product testimonials updated. It forces you to find the gold you know doubt have buried.
  • Have a place to collect the positive, and have it be visible so it’s obvious when it hasn’t been updated in a while.

Good luck in the product trenches, and stay positive out there!

Photo courtesy of Adam Jang.

Originally published on Automattic’s Design Flow blog.

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